Widener Library, which opened on June 24, 1915, commemorates Harry Elkins Widener (born January 3, 1885 in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania), a 1907 Harvard graduate, who was a book collector and victim of the Titanic disaster. His mother, Eleanor Elkins, made a $3.5 million donation to Harvard University to build a library named after him. The library was designed by Horace Trumbauer & Associates, the architect of many private houses for the intertwined Elkins and Widener families of Philadelphia including the renowned Lynnewood Hall. The Associate responsible for designing Widener Library was the chief designer of the firm, architect Julian F. Abele, the first major African American architect.
Lowry refers to the library in his novel Ultramarine in which the protagonist Dana Hilliot compares the Universitetsbiblioteket in Oslo to the Widener Library in Harvard; " strolling with my father through the Harvard Yard, passing the Widener Library, so absurdly like our Bibliotheket, and Amy Lowell's house." (Pg. 51).
Lowry must have become familiar with the Widener Library during his trip to the USA in 1929 to visit Conrad Aiken.